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ISRAEL-OPT: A mixed bag on the Annapolis agenda

JERUSALEM, 27 November 2007 (IRIN) - The following are some of the core issues to be negotiated by the Israelis and Palestinians at this week’s international conference at Annapolis, Maryland, USA, according to analysts and politicians on both sides.

Refugees

Currently there are over 4.4 million registered Palestinian refugees, meaning those who fled Palestine in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and their descendants. This is the most volatile issue, as polls indicate that a majority of Palestinians want to see no less than a right of return to what is now Israel, while only a low percentage of Jewish Israelis are willing to allow in any Palestinians.

The Aix group, a working group of Israeli, Palestinian, and international economists, recently suggested that some US$55-85 billion, along with the right to return to the new Palestinian state, would be needed to solve the issue so that both sides can be satisfied, although opinion polls indicate most Palestinians will not be satisfied by money.

Jerusalem

A cultural, religious and historical city, claimed by both sides as a capital. While the international community might like to see a divide, leaving East Jerusalem to the Palestinians and West Jerusalem to the Israelis, the issue of Israeli settlements in the parts occupied in 1967 remains a problem. Also, the two sides want control over religious sites, most notably the Haram al-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, known to Jews as Temple Mount.

Proposals have included a united city, open city, divided city and a semi open city, with varying degrees of sovereignty granted to each side.

Also, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in East Jerusalem were forced to take Israeli ID cards, and have been part of the Israeli workforce and social welfare system. Many would not want to lose benefits and employment.

Borders

The premise of the two state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is usually based around the 1949 armistice lines, which would leave what was Israel between 1949 and 1967 in Israeli hands, and place the West Bank and Gaza Strip under Palestinian sovereignty.

However, Israeli public opinion supports keeping many of the large settlement blocks in the West Bank under Israeli control, while Palestinians are saying that at most they would be prepared to conduct small scale land swaps to achieve that. Furthermore, the Israeli Barrier extends repeatedly into the West Bank, and Palestinians are worried it may serve as a de-facto border in the long run, although Israeli officials have said it can be moved.

Israel's mixed experience in evacuating its settlers from Gaza in 2005 may serve to make future evacuations a complex issue.

Security

Both Israelis and Palestinians want guarantees for their security following any final settlement. Israel wants Palestinian militants to cease all activity and for the Palestinian Authority to implement law and order throughout the territories it will control.

Palestinians want guarantees that any new state they form would not be under Israeli control - either through an Israeli say in their border crossings, sea and air spaces, or Israeli incursions into their territory.

Attacks against Israel and harsh Israeli responses, or pre-emptive actions, would harm any future peace.

Finally, Gaza remains for now in the hands of the Islamic group Hamas, which is not part of the negotiations. For a final settlement to work, all Palestinian territories would need to be connected and under one rule.

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Copyright © IRIN 2007
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
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